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Hi Bold Bakers!
WHY YOU’LL LOVE THIS RECIPE: This exquisite Traditional Irish Spice Cake will become your treasured secret recipe you’ll lovingly prepare for holidays, family dinners, and bake sales. Yet perhaps the ultimate way to enjoy this spice-infused delicacy is to cut a generous square and savor it with a cup of tea. This humble cake—a single layer simply decorated with a dusting of powdered sugar—doesn’t need bells and whistles. With its delectably moist, fine crumb and apple flavor perfectly accented with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves, this enchanting cake will delight you and bring warmth and joy to any occasion.
Scrumptious but straightforward desserts like this have a way of bringing up wonderfully nostalgic feelings with each forkful. And although I love a special, decadent treat with loads of chocolate or buttercream, a slice of Traditional Irish Spice Cake and a mug of tea is a comforting everyday indulgence that brings you back to simpler times!
Table of Contents
- What is Traditional Irish Spice Cake?
- Tools You Need
- Key Ingredients and Why
- How to Make Traditional Irish Spice Cake
- Can I Make Traditional Irish Spice Cake in Advance?
- How to Store Traditional Irish Spice Cake
- Gemma’s Pro Chef Tips
- More Cozy Cake Recipes
What is Traditional Irish Spice Cake?
- This spice cake is a traditional Irish dessert. It’s a single-layer tea cake flavored with apple, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves.
- Oil-based cakes like this one are known for their moist and tender texture and ability to stay fresh at room temperature for several days. Plus, they’re quick to put together because there’s no need to cream butter.
- Because spices were expensive in Ireland in ancient times, recipes made with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves were reserved for special occasions, like Christmas. Often, they were flavored with dried fruit like raisins or cherries and citrus zest. Spice cakes still carry those traditions of celebration and hospitality.
Tools You Need
- 8-inch square baking pan and parchment paper
- Mixing bowls
- Measuring jug
- Measuring cups and measuring spoons
- Wire cooling rack
Key Ingredients and Why
- Because buttermilk is acidic, it tenderizes the gluten in the batter, giving this cake a delicate, tender crumb.
- The acidity in buttermilk works with the baking soda and baking powder to give the cake a light, fluffy rise, and a rich and slightly tangy taste.
- Learn how to make your own buttermilk substitute, and you won’t have to worry about running out!
- Applesauce moistens the cake and replaces some of the fat needed in the recipe.
- Even though it’s unsweetened, the applesauce provides the cake with its natural sweetness. Also, the apple flavor blends perfectly with the spices.
- Making homemade applesauce elevates this recipe.
- Vegetable oil contributes moisture to the cake, giving it a delectable texture.
- Vegetable oil has more moisture than butter. That makes cakes made with vegetable oil moister and softer than those made with butter.
- The neutral taste of vegetable oil lets the apple and spice flavors shine.
- Eggs enrich flavors and provide an emulsifier from the egg yolks to homogeneously bind all the ingredients together.
- Eggs must always be at room temperature in baking unless specified otherwise. Room-temperature eggs will set this recipe on the right track with a smooth and cohesive cake batter.
- Learn foolproof ways to get your eggs to room temperature quickly.
- Sugar sweetens the Irish Spice Cake.
- Sugar binds easily with water, not only locking in water to make baked goods moist but also inhibiting gluten formation to make the cake soft.
- Dark brown sugar doesn’t only sweeten the cake, but it also adds moisture, caramel and molasses notes, and depth to baked goods.
- You only need white sugar and molasses to make your own brown sugar!
All-purpose flour has the perfect amount of gluten to support the cake’s structure but still makes it light and fluffy.
- Baking powder gives the Irish Spice Cake a controlled rise and a consistent structure. It keeps the cake from being heavy and dense.
- When baking soda is combined with an acidic ingredient like buttermilk in a recipe, it causes a chemical reaction that creates carbon dioxide bubbles that make the cake light and fluffy.
- Always have baking powder and baking soda on hand when you learn How to Make Baking Powder and Baking Soda!
- Cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves blend to give the cake a complex, aromatic, satisfying flavor profile.
- Cinnamon adds warmth and comfort, ginger adds zip and spice, nutmeg notes nuttiness and earthiness, and cloves are intensely aromatic and sweet.
- A sweet and pretty dusting of powdered sugar adds sweetness and visual interest to the cake.
- No worries if you don’t have powdered sugar on hand. With How to Make Powdered Sugar, you can make a batch and keep it handy in the cupboard.
How to Make Traditional Irish Spice Cake
- Prepare to bake. Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Line the cake pan with parchment paper, and set up a wire cooling rack.
- Mix the wet ingredients, including the buttermilk, applesauce, oil, eggs, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract in a medium bowl.
- Combine the dry ingredients, including the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Mix into the wet ingredient mixture just until combined.
- Bake the cake in the prepared pan, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Cool and serve. Cool the cake in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert it onto the wire rack. Let the cake cool completely. Serve with a dusting of powdered sugar.
Can I Make Traditional Irish Spice Cake in Advance?
Yes, you can make Traditional Irish Spice Cake in advance.
- For the best flavor and texture, freeze the cake. Let the cake cool thoroughly, wrap it well, place it in an airtight container or large freezer bag, and freeze for up to four weeks.
- Let the cake defrost in the fridge overnight before serving.
How to Store Traditional Irish Spice Cake
The cake can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for three days.
Can I make this cake egg-free?
Yes, you can make this spice cake egg-free. Please take a look at my guide to the 12 Best Egg Substitutes for Baking and How to Use Them for the best options.
Can I make this cake vegan?
Yes, you can make this cake vegan.
- Find the best egg substitute in the 12 Best Egg Substitutes for Baking and How to Use Them.
- Use How to Make Buttermilk Substitute instead of buttermilk. You can use coconut milk, almond milk, soy milk, cashew milk, or any other non-dairy milk of your choice.
Gemma’s Pro Chef Tips
- When making cakes, ensure all ingredients are at room temperature before you begin.
- Try this with Homemade Applesauce!
- This spice cake doesn’t need to be served with much more than a cup of tea, but you can make it fancy with a half recipe of Cream Cheese Frosting or a drizzle of Apple Cider Caramel Sauce or Spiced Rum Caramel Sauce. It’s also excellent with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a dollop of whipped cream or custard sauce.
- This recipe can be doubled and baked in a 9×13-inch (23×33-cm) to feed a crowd. Increase the baking time to 45 to 50 minutes.
More Cozy Cake Recipes
Traditional Irish Spice Cake Recipe
- ½ cup (4 fl oz/120 ml) buttermilk, at room temperature
- ½ cup (4 oz/115 g) unsweetened applesauce
- ¼ cup (2 oz/60 ml) vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs , at room temperature
- ½ cup (4 oz/115 g) granulated sugar
- ⅓ cup (2 oz/57 g) dark brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ¼ cups (6¼ oz/177g) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- Powdered sugar , for serving (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) and line an 8-inch (20-cm) square pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves, then mix the dry ingredients into the wet just until smooth.
- Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes before inverting onto a wire rack to cool completely.
- Serve simply as is or with a dusting of powdered sugar. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.